Happy Pride 2018!

It’s that time of the year where the LGBTI communities around the world come together in colorful unison and get their parade on.

Before I go further, a bit of history: The Pride parades have their origin in the Stonewall riot on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn was (it closed shortly after the riots) a gay bar, a local hook-up place where those who were not heterosexual could drink and dance the night away. It was also a place that was a long standing target of harassment by the New York City Police. I should say harassment, raids, and arrests.

On June 28, 1969 the police made one too many raids and the locals had had enough, hence the riot. Not only did the riot push back at the police harassment but it ushered in the Gay Liberation movement.

One day short of a year in Chicago, June 27, 1970, a group organized a protest march. The date was selected to not just to protest the treatment and inequalities that LGBTI community suffered but to commemorate the Stonewall riot as well. The protest march grew and turned into a full on parade. That same day but a little later (that’s why Chicago got top billing – it was the earliest) other cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles had events of their own. Since then the Pride parades and events have become world-wide. There is so much more to the story and worth it’s exploring, but for us it’s time to move on.

Somewhere out there among the hills, trees and villages is Rose Apple in South Woodstock

So, here I am at Rose Apple in South Woodstock. South Woodstock is a very small hamlet, a population of about 500. The downtown area is made up of a quaint B & B, an auto repair shop, the small County Store, an old schoolhouse, a church and some houses and outlaying farms. If it wasn’t for the sharp curve in the road one could blink and miss it. Our next largest town is Woodstock, which has a population of about 3,000. As one could imagine there is not much in the way of Pride events – actually none. It’s not that the population is made up of rural conservatives, I’m sure there are some, but I think it is more about shear demographics and the older population here. As I drove through Woodstock, a rather gentrified place, there was an small anti-immigration policy protest, maybe sixty people or so, with some not so encouraging words about our president. At first I thought it was some type of garden party until I saw the signs – very civil.

In any event, I decided to commemorate the event by streaming a movie, and a bowl of popcorn of course. The movie I watched was Love, Simon, which was released in March of this year by 20th Century Fox. Love, Simon, in movie classification is a come of age – coming out of the closet – dramedy – teen romance kind of film, and it is remarkable.

I call it “remarkable” from the perspective of knowing a bit about LGBTI portrayals in film history. There is no great tragic life story, no persecution, no self-loathing, bitterness, cat claws, and so on in this movie. No, it is a simple coming of age story in which the main character just happens to be gay. It is as if LGBTI melted with mainstream pop culture. When I was watching the movie I couldn’t help thinking of The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and the plot line is typical Hollywood – boy meets boy, boy looses boy, boy gets boy back. We’ve come a long way.

Simon Spier is a high school senior who happens to be gay. He has known it for years and seems to be ok with it. The big dilemma, at least one of them, in the film is not his own acceptance of who he is but rather the emotional intricacies of coming out, letting those around him that he’s not heterosexual. At the same time Simon falls in love with a classmate online but converse through non de plum, they don’t know each others real name.

Now here’s the thing: Despite the loving and accepting idyllic parents, and the idyllic friends who will always be there, and even the idyllic high school, as far as high schools can go, Simon still struggles with announcing who he really is, what he is about. There is much in the film I could not relate to, my life situation was hardly idyllic, however, my family and friends were supportive when I came out. Like Simon it was my own internal blocks, or in buddhist speak, my own fetters that hindered my freedom.

In the movie Simon takes us beyond the gay-straight thing and speaks to something more universal, something he stumbled upon through his experience. In his coming out post in the school blog, as well as to his love interest, Simon writes “…I was just scared. At first I though it was a gay thing but then I realized no matter what announcing who you are to the world is pretty terrifying cause what if the world doesn’t like you….” So here we are back to that damned 100 foot Zen pole. Just being who you are regardless of what that is is a challenging thing. I find the difficulty in life is not only “announcing” who you are and what you are about but staying on track as well, not getting swayed this way or that way but being constantly there, to your true nature, who you really are.

One last thing – this reminds me of another journey: I go around and give Dharma talks in all sorts of situations. Getting up in front of the room or hall was never easy for me. As a child I was very shy and in school I was terrified to stand up and present whatever I was supposed to present. As I got a little older I decided to get beyond this and over the course of time I discovered a “secret” to public speaking, at least my secret. Why did I not like getting up in front of people to speak? I think it was that I was afraid of looking foolish. How did I overcome my shyness and fear? By realizing that I am indeed foolish and that it is perfectly fine to be “foolish.”

Happy Pride 2018! – cpv



White Clouds – your moment of zen

Mindful Lunchtime

You know you are in Edinburgh when you attend Mindful Lunchtime at St. Mark’s Unitarian Church. Every Tuesday for about the past ten to fifteen years urban dwellers of Edinburgh (Edinburghers) have had the opportunity to stop and enjoy a bit of mindful practice during lunchtime. The weekly event is a collaboration of the Wild Geese Sangha in the tradition of Plum Village and the Unitarian Congregation of Edinburgh, and of course the lunchtime practice is open for anyone who is interested.

Knowing that I was going to be in the area, Jon Bagust, the creator and facilitator of Mindful Lunchtime, asked if I would be willing to facilitate a session. I had facilitated once before a few years ago at the invitation of Jon and knew what a terrific event it is – how could I refuse.

Between 12:30 and 2:00 every Tuesday the doors of St. Mark’s is open for a schedule of mid-day practice. One just needs to bring their lunch and their mindfulness. The Lunchtime event begins with sitting mediation and walking meditation from 12:30 to 1:15. At 1:15 to 1:40 there is eating meditation in silence. After the meal at 1:40 to 2:00 there is another session of sitting meditation. What makes this schedule so accessible to the urbanites of Edinburgh is, I believe, two things; first, it is in the heart of Edinburgh; second, you don’t have to attend the whole thing. The Mindful Lunchtime schedule is set up so that anyone can join in at any of the practices. If you can’t make the sitting, fine, join in for the meal. If you can’t stay after the meal, great, enjoy the rest of your day.

I think that Mindful Lunchtime must be one of the great secrets of our time because I am really surprised that this idea and expression of the practice hasn’t spread to other urban areas. In any event, the idea and the mindful energy of Mindful Lunch is there for you to eat up – bon appetite!


Also – I gave a public talk at St. Mark’s the next evening, Wednesday, June 6th. You can find it on the Dharma Talks Page.

Some Links

Mindful Lunch/ Wild Geese Sangha Website

Unitarians of Edinburgh Website

You know when you are in Bonnie Scotland When…

You know when you are in Scotland when – well, you know …



London Bridge and Fake News


Despite the long standing nursery rhyme conspiracy theory, the London Bridge is not falling down. I was there crossing the bridge a couple of days ago and here is a picture showing the aged bridge still standing and doing its job. As I approached the bridge and began my walk across, I certainly had the confident impression that it was a solid structure and that it wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. As far as I am concerned, any reports, either through rhymes, books, YouTube videos, or verbal communication, proclaiming London Bridge is falling down is nothing less than fake news.

In a world of mass communication, instant access to all sorts of information, even information we don’t even want, it is challenging to sort it all out – What is the truth? What is reality? Generally, we seek the authoritative, the one or ones seemingly in charge. Our society has this interesting schism that on the one hand asserts the individual’s capacity but on the other hand so willing to believe the first thing that comes out of a person’s mouth. I have often wondered about this. I have wondered, is it because we ourselves have been conditioned to accept our own inner authority, the inner authority that has us believe so much of our own misperception about ourselves and how we perceive the world around us, our very own fake news.

This authoritative mind tells us so much, convinces us so much, influences so much that we are not as free as we think we are. Our mind provides us the illusion that freedom comes through the self – interest, self – promotion, through dividing up our own experience into this and that, me and you, ours and theirs. We believe this and what we believe shapes our view and in turn shapes our actions, sometime benignly, rarely positively, mostly destructively.

I remember growing up around the slogan “Question Authority.” There were even stronger slogans such as “Don’t Trust Authority.” Perhaps it is time to revive the sediment in our lives. Do we question what our minds create, all the ideas, images, assumptions, presumptions, narratives and the like, or do we go blindly along? According to the teachings, it is the difference between awakening and ignorance. As my teacher, Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “Are you sure?” In the Korean Zen tradition there is the importance of doubt: Little doubt, little enlightenment. Great doubt, great enlightenment. This also falls into line with the old notion that a healthy spiritual life requires a bit of healthy skepticism to question the authoritative mind, whether it is our very own mind or the mind of others.

Next time we will delve into the cover-up behind the Humpty-Dumpty incident – Did Humpty-Dumpty really die from the fall or was it because of medical negligence due to his lack of health insurance?